23. February 2012 21:15
We all know that communication in the workplace is one of the more difficult organisational practices to get right. At Employee Feedback, we have found that where there is a low score on communication items it often follows that there is a low engagement score too. We are also aware that communicating with employees is not enough on its own. Factors such as the medium used, the quality and quantity of communication and ensuing there is enough opportunity for two-way communication also needs to be taken into consideration. [More]
8. February 2012 15:04
You may have read about a large scale study of employee engagement conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council back in 2004 http://bit.ly/wFU8LM
The project involved a survey using 47 questions that measured the strength of rational and emotional commitment to day-to-day work, direct manager, team, and organization, along with the level of discretionary effort and intent to stay.
More than 50,000 employees from 59 organizations, 30 countries, and 14 industries participated in the 2004 survey.
The data were strongly skewed in favour of the US, but that aside, the demographic profile of respondents was pretty wide.
The respondent population, it emerged, were distributed into three broad groups:
11% were 'True Believers' who show strong emotional and rational commitment to their work, team, manager and organisation
13% were 'Disaffected' and strongly uncommitted to work, managers, teams and the organisation
20% leant towards non-commitment
27% were stronlgly commtted to one focus - ie job, team, manager or organisation
The remaining 29% were truly ambivalent
So no real surprises there - these figures are pretty representative of the overall picture we tend to see in our own engagement surveys.
An analysis of different demographics (age, gender, grade, marital status etc) showed little variation among individual employees - which also fits with our data, except, perhaps, that we tend to find that more senior grades tend to manifest greater levels of engagement.
Of more interest, however, (though again, probably unsurprisingly) were the very wide differences between organisations. In the highest scoring companies, almost 24% of respondents were strongly engaged with work, team, manager and organisation, while in the lowest scoring businesses, fewer than 3% appeared to be fully engaged. In other words, in some businesses, eight times as many employees were strongly engaged as in others. Obviously, there were some simple and fairly obvious differences which heped to explain this variation - personality types, job differences for example - but the data suggested a very wide variety of factors affected engagement within and between these busineses.
Which made it difficult for the Report to make any general prescriptions.
So once again practitioners were advised that the best way to build and maintain engagement "... all depended" on the prevailing circumstances within the specific organisation. Not very helpful.
And that's often the situation today, when one looks for some kind of practical advice and support.
Add to this the radical conclusion of Schaufeli, Bakker et al (http://bit.ly/zlbHbR) that engagement levels are constantly changing, daily, even hourly, and the challenge remains more daunting than ever.
General prescriptions are of only general use to the manager, consultant or HR practitioner seeking a practical way to manage engagement in the real world of organisations today.
That's why we at Employee Feedback have taken a different approach: EngageMe is a completely new tool designed to provide down to earth assistance with the engagement of specific groups of employee within a given organsiation - in real time. http://bit.ly/wwZLHm.
Building on current research findings, EngageMe provides an immediate overview of what individuals and teams are feeling - and why. This information can be used by team leaders and managers - and employees themselves - to react and respond appropriately to what's going on in the business - NOW.
Successful strategies can be identified and learned from. Issues and problems affecting engagement can be spotted and dealt with quickly.
EngageMe isn't a panacea, or a replacement for the detailed overview that a 'traditional' engagement survey provides. But it is, we believe,the first practical tool that practitioners can use on a day to day basis to monitor and manage engagement. Which is what many of those who have long experience of employee surveys have been seeking for some time.
The product is currently being tested and we'll write again to describe the results in practice. We'll also publish regular updates on our website.
29. May 2011 04:57
Our last blog looked at ways to increase response rates for employee engagement surveys. Since then I have been looking to see what information is in the public domain which show what companies do to try to encourage their staff to respond – i.e. do companies simply try to walk the talk and prove that they are listening to encourage future employee engagement survey/initiative participation or do they try to incentivise up front as a way of providing motivation? I had a look around at some of the news material on employee engagement and instantly found some interesting ideas...
First off, I found an article focused on Café Nero from HR Magazine dated 20th May 2011. Interestingly, the CEO, Steve Carpenter, said ‘we are a people business serving coffee, not a coffee business serving people’. Personally, I love this philosophy – Carpenter has clearly recognised that his main asset is his employees, getting them engaged ensures that they are satisfied and committed to the business and this in turn should ensure that the employees provide excellent customer service. The article suggests that the engagement process starts at recruitment – get the right people into the business, the ones who fit the job, remain loyal and fit the company culture. This is why generally, employees are promoted from within. Additionally, the managers are invited to regular meetings with the Board which are called ‘bitch & whinge’ sessions where their views regarding current issues can be heard. Managers are encouraged to recognise those who go the extra mile with a thank you and a ‘strategic recognition scheme’ has been created to provide company-wide recognition for those doing excellent jobs. Since 2001, Cafe Nero has increased from 427 staff to more than 3000 and their 2010 revenue was £153.6 million, with 87% feeling proud to work for the company.
In an article in The Guardian on the 26th May 2011, Diageo was featured. They have implemented a gold, silver and bronze medal initiative system called GreenIq focused on environmental issues. Whilst many organisations talk about green incentives, very few actually drive the change forward. The article reports that ‘Diageo realised that employee engagement could be a missing link in its bid to achieve a range of tough environmental targets by 2015’. As part of the programmes teams were brought together to work on various initiatives – different levels of Olympic type medals were given for the varying difficulty of projects. The prize was quite sizeable - £15000 to spend on a new environmental project – based on site or more locally. Results seem quite impressive – 60% reduction in use of water at one location and head office managed to stop sending waste to landfill. To ensure that a programme like this works and people buy into it, employee engagement is key. Keeping momentum and ensuring continued participation for employees will be key to ensure that future engagement initiatives are taken seriously and employees get on board.
There are many varied ideas being implemented by organisations to encourage participation in employee engagement surveys or initiatives, ranging from formal to fun – whatever you do, success remains reliant on consistent communication, senior support to the programme and listening to the employee voice as to what is currently happening at grass roots level. It goes to show that if you are looking for ways to encourage employee engagement response rates or uptake to initiatives, there is much in the media which will give you an idea as to what other organisations are doing. For more advice on encouraging employee engagement survey responses, please give us a call as we would be happy to provide you with some further guidance on the process.
19. May 2011 03:51
We are often asked by clients how to encourage people to respond to surveys. It is a logical question and we often respond by providing suggestions which centre on incentivising the process i.e. donations to charity for each completion or a prize draw for those who complete. However, whilst it is worthwhile encouraging responses and ensuring that there is adequate time and/or facilities to complete the survey for those who want to, the fact that in some organisations employees choose not to complete the survey is important feedback information in its own right.
We often find in organisations where there has historically been a lack of commitment to feedback, poor communications and a lack of resulting action that survey completion rates are the lowest. In these circumstances, it is important to ask yourself what can be learnt from the poor response rate and what needs to change as a result to prevent repetition in the future. In this situation actions probably speak louder than words - the more action results from the surveys the more employees will see the value and the more completions you will see year on year if your commitment to the process is consistent.
However, there are some organisations where communication is good and resulting action is promising plus response rates are generally high but there is still a significant level of non-completions – can anything be done to help with this? Well one possible solution may be to help reduce the resistance change.
When surveys are rolled out some employees may dread what happens as a result – sceptical about what it will mean for them and change to their job role or working environment. How can you help those resistant to change get on board and relish the opportunity to get involved and have their say? According to an article in the Harvard Business Review (Ford & Ford, 2009), the first two things you can do when dealing with resistance to change are: boost awareness - when you are about to set a survey to go live you have probably spent ample time planning and processing it, for those not in the loop publicising the go live date way before may help them to adjust to and accept the process; return to purpose - ensure that you communicate why you are doing this in addition to the what, when and how you are doing it - state what you hope the outcome will mean and what commitment you are making, if possible provide a timeline so that individuals have something to anchor themselves to.
By ensuring that employees who may be resistant to change are prepared for what to expect, when to expect it and what the potential outcomes may be, you may be able to help to engage some further employees into the process and improve response rates. A combination of incentives which help to motivate employees to complete surveys along with adherence to a systematic communication process before, during and after a survey may help to galvanise the workforce even further to provide a more united voice on which subsequent action can be based.
Ford, J. Ford, L. (2009). Decoding resistance to change, strong leaders can hear and learn from their critics. Harvard Business Review, April pp.99-103
22. April 2011 18:03
In December 2010 , Edward Hallowell, a Psychiatrist and author, wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review, entitled ‘what brain science tells us about how to excel’. I thought that the article was excellent and the presented ‘Cycle of excellence’ seems of key importance to those working on engagement issues.
In short, the ‘Cycle of excellence’ consists of 5 elements: 1. Select – finding the right job role to fit employees2. Connect – foster links with others and utilise the power of togetherness3. Play – encourage engagement with work, allow creativity and imaginative ways for people to work4. Grapple and Grow – encourage employees to roll with the tough times, rising to the challenge 5. Shine – provide recognition and praise for efforts in the workplaceSelectHallowell suggests that we should try to ensure that organisation person fit and person job fit are right for individuals. The goal is to spend the majority of your working time doing what you like to do, doing what you do best and doing what adds value to the organisation. ConnectWe should endeavour to make positive connections in the workplace as this ‘galvanizes people like nothing else can’. Given that organisations are often spread internationally and with the introduction of modern technology people often have no need to speak to each other face to face; it is clear that building relationships is harder than it used to be. However, building these relationships is crucial as without them people can become disengaged, apparently one of the key causes of ‘underachievement and depression’. To foster engagement, building relationships at work and having the opportunities to do so should be top of any engagement strategy. Hallowell suggests that organisations expend a great deal of energy on getting employees to ‘buy into an organisation’s mission’ but more time needs to be spent on fostering positive connections. He goes on to provide an excellent analogy, stating that ‘soldiers in the moment are not fighting for freedom or country; they’re fighting for one another’.
PlayOnce employees are in the right job and connected, then ‘imaginative engagement’ should be the next level, which Hallowell calls ‘a state of play’. Research suggests that during play, fMRI scans will show right hemisphere activation, suggesting spontaneous and intuitive thinking as opposed to left hemisphere processes which are found to be more analytical and detailed. Interestingly play ‘builds your brain’ as it stimulates nerve growth, and more interestingly play has been found to help regulate emotions, and regulate executive functions such as planning, organising, prioritising, deciding etc which are all key things that one would want from themselves and their employees.Grapple and GrowTo achieve successful outcomes there may be some tough challenges and working through them can help individuals to grow. Neural pathways can be strengthened through practice and therefore when learning something new we may experience periods of pain or stress but through repeating the process and working through the barriers we can achieve better performance. According to James Loehr, ‘Stress is not the enemy in our lives. Paradoxically, it is the key to growth.’ But the warning is that good stress, ‘eustress’, should be coveted whilst ‘toxic stress’ should be avoided, or minimised or reframed to be positive stress.ShineAt the end of this ‘cycle of excellence’ when employees have found the right job, connected with others that they work with, played at work and become ‘imaginatively engaged’, and then overcome challenges perceived as insurmountable and grown from that experience, employees, rightly so, will expect some form of recognition and appreciation. The need for recognition is crucial to improving human performance. Accordingly, praise encourages dopamine levels to increase in the brain which increases our sense of pleasure and well being. The cycle of excellence is all about ‘encouraging you to work even harder to achieve your best’. This model fits well with encouraging employee engagement levels more generally. Getting the key elements right means that you can be on the path to the holy grail of total employee engagement fairly easily. After all, getting people in the right jobs, fostering relationships, encouraging people to ‘think outside the box’ and play with ideas, and recognising people’s achievements are all good HR practices. It is clear that many organisations do these or at least do some of these, but it is the joined up way of working with these practices, being consistent and encouraging buy-in to them from employees in which HR Directors/Managers/ CEO’s really achieve impressive employee engagement levels and ultimately improved performance.
Hallowell, E. (2010). What brain science tells us about how to excel. Harvard Business Review, Dec 10, pp.123-129